Groundwater Users Sue The State

When's the next water summit again?


So much for negotiating. Idaho ground water users announced just a moment ago that they've filed suit against the State of Idaho.

The suit is in reaction to the water shut-off letter sent by the state last week.

The ground water users hope to prevent the shutting off of wells that irrigate between 36,000 and 38,000 acres of Magic Valley farm land. They say doing so would curtail the water rights of farmers, dairymen, food producers and 13 Idaho cities.

The suit was filed by the Idaho Ground Water Appropriators (IGWA), the North Snake Ground Water District and the Magic Valley Ground Water District in the Fifth District Court in Jerome.

In his letter, Department of Water Resources Director David Tuthill renewed previous IDWR threats to shut off the water rights of certain junior priority ground water users between Bliss and east of Minidoka. Tuthill’s letter said the curtailment order would be issued on May 14.

“Our members were backed into a corner by the threatened curtailment orders and had no choice but to turn to the courts to protect their lawful water rights,” said Tim Deeg, IGWA President, in a prepared statement sent out today. “I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to solve these issues and begin setting the stage for a resolution based upon proper management of the aquifer and the benefits of all right holders.”

IGWA members include farmers, dairymen, food producers and 13 Idaho cities, including Dietrich, Hagerman, Hazelton, Shoshone, Jerome, Richfield, Wendell, Gooding, Paul, Heyburn and Rupert.

Deeg, of American Falls, and IGWA attorney Randy Budge, of Pocatello, said significant overtures were made to the State of Idaho and surface water users in an attempt to avoid legal action. Those overtures, made in recent meetings organized by Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, were flatly rejected, they said.

Budge took aim at the surface water users in his release.

“The real problem is that the surface water users and spring water users seem to be intent on securing water supplies in greater amount and greater reliability than historically existed, all at the expense of curtailing ground water pumping,” Budge said. “They are ignoring drought conditions, winter storage and changed irrigation practices since the 1950s, which are the real culprit of this situation and continue to increase their demands of the IGWA members. There is little choice other than bringing legal action to challenge the right of spring users to curtail ground water pumping.”


District Judge John K. Butler today temporarily blocked the Idaho Department of Water Resources from curtailing ground water pumping by certain junior water right holders in southcentral Idaho and ordered IDWR to explain the reasons it wants to force those pumps to be turned off.